GOLD BEACH Curry County Sheriff Kent Owens $2.5 million law levy is expected to be on the May ballot, Commissioner Marlyn Schafer said this week.
Schafer told the Local Public Safety Coordinating Committee the commissioners will vote on Owens request during their Monday meeting. She expects the commissioners to approve it.
Owens told the council on Feb. 26, The last thing I want to do is divide the county. Thats not my plan.
He said as a last resort he would back the formation of special law enforcement districts, but felt that would really divide the county.
Owens last proposed levy, a 3-year $2.1 million levy was defeated in September 1999 by 55.3 percent no to 44.7 percent yes.
That levy, if approved, would have added 12 patrol deputies for a total of 18. The south, central and north parts of the county would each have had six deputies, enough for round-the-clock patrol coverage.
Owens said while south county voters supported the levy, it was defeated by those in the central and north county. He said those voters didnt believe they needed 12 additional deputies.
His new levy would be used to hire six additional patrol deputies, one sergeant and one detective. With 12 deputies total, six would be assigned to the south county and six to the north/central county.
Owens said his plan would still provide round-the-clock coverage, but would cost homeowners only 32 cents per $1,000 of value, instead of the 49 cents of the previous levy.
Owens plan for patrol cars is key to the savings. Officers now must each have a patrol car to take home.
Because there is no 24-hour coverage, they must be prepared to answer emergency calls from home.
With three additional patrol cars provided by the levy, Owens would have the deputies drive to holding areas in the south and central county to pick up their patrol cars at the beginning of each shift.
Owens said the additional patrol sergeant is needed for backup.
Sometimes people think we can jump tall buildings at a single bound, he said. We cant.
Owens said a lone officer has to use any force necessary to gain control of a situation. That could result in the officer being hurt or killed, or having to use deadly force on someone else.
With the help of the patrol sergeant, those resisting arrest could be restrained with less risk to themselves and the arresting officers. More officers can control crowd situations before they get out of hand.
Look at these patrol officers out there as if they were your sons or daughters, said Owens.
As for the new detective, Owens said the public mistakenly believes cases are closed as soon as the officer concludes the first response.
He said it takes hours of follow-up to clear a case and prepare it for prosecution. Because the officers have no time to follow up on cases, criminals cant be prosecuted and are left in the community to victimize others, Owens said.
He said the detective could also work on patrol or in the corrections division when needed.
With a five-year levy, said Owens, he could bring some stability to the justice system in Curry County.
Better candidates would apply if they knew their positions would be secure for five years.
By making the levy no more than five years, said Owens, the citizens retain control over the sheriffs office. The new positions would go away if the levy is not renewed.
It puts the sheriff under the gun to make sure the job gets done, he said.
If you give us five years, we will provide a level of service you wont want to be without.
Capt. Mark Metcalf presented the numbers on the levy. The total of $2,554,508 works out to $510,902 a year at .3191 per $1,000 of property value.
That was computed on Curry Countys current total property value of $1.6 billion. Metcalf said that increased 6 percent last year. If it continues to increase, the levys cost of less than 32 cents per $1,000 would drop.
Metcalf said budget experts told him he computed his costs too low during the last levy. He said his current estimates are realistic.
This will be tight, said Metcalf, but this is something we can do.
He said the major variation would be if one of the new officers leaves within five years and some of the equipment doesnt fit the replacement officer. He said the department would absorb those additional costs.
Metcalf provided the committee with pages of figures accounting for where every levy dollar would go, down to the last flashlight.